I’m going to claim that this is the start of a new series in which I will look at a feature in a game I am playing and imagine ways I would make it better. Although I may often try and place myself in the mind of the developers and try to please as much of the community as possible while limiting the number I piss off, I’m not going to consider time or budget or how technological limitations would effect implementation — I don’t even know what any of that means, never mind how that would affect particular gaming companies.
And so I shall call this series Wishful Thinking — it will be examples of what I would do if I were a developer and had the single goal, with no limitations, of making everything fully awesome.
As I am addicted to Glitch, I’m going to start with something that’s already on the table, Glitch’s housing system. For both the housing system and the group “halls” (which are being described as more like private streets), there have been a lot of hints about particulars we will see when the changes are implemented. I’m going to avoid talking about those completely and discuss a feature that hasn’t gotten any air time.
Location (repeat 3x).
Currently, Glitch homes have static locations that are accessed from streets. Other than cave regions, most streets have some form of housing. The houses themselves are on static blocks that anyone can visit even if they don’t live there — think Lord of the Rings housing, though without the upkeep.
The current system has ups and downs. Though a small part of me prefers housing that is actually distributed in the world and not instanced off the world, I don’t think such is a practical idea in a 2d environment. Instancing, but public instancing that anyone can visit, is probably the best way to go for housing blocks in glitch. I also find it nice that the access to the blocks is a physical object in the regular world that players run through.
But there is a downside. Because the instances have a physical presence in the world of Ur, locations sell out. Areas that have quick access to more than one type of region sell out the quickest. The most expensive, 50k currant, homes also sell out. Tiny Speck has been regularly adding more signs — and therefore more blocks and more houses — and has added a column, the 5000s, to all existing signs.
If housing is to remain physically linked to particular regions, I think the current sign has to go. I find it unfortunate and think the current sign has a simplistic, amiable character, but it lacks expandability. A vertical scroll bar and a list format are necessary if addresses are to continue to infinity.
Of course that’s thinking pretty small for Wishful Thinking (if you capitalize the idea, it becomes a real thing you are forced to commit to — I read that somewhere or saw it on Oprah). I’d really like to see a rethinking—or at least new options—as to what makes a neighborhood.
They’ve hinted that we’d have more control over whom our neighbors will be. Although I would live with it, I wouldn’t be happy if “neighbors” came to mean no more than “other players whose homes I can visit instantly be selecting a street sign at my own house.” While that would be fine as one possibility, what would really be excellent would be to tie housing location to group halls.
Before The Great Unlaunching of 2011, we were expecting an update that would include group halls — we were also told that group halls would be more like private streets. The mining group I am part of already had plans for building our own, we’ve speculated on what the requirements might be, and a number of us had begun hoarding material in anticipation of release.
I suspect we will still have the option to build group streets. I suspect the reason why we are no longer expecting that update soon* is that it has now become tangled up in The Big Update. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that the two will actually launch together. I’m hoping we have the option to not only build our own houses but also to build a neighborhood block street with friends and then build our houses within that shared block.
But even that wouldn’t be ideal alone. While this would please community-centered glitchen such as myself, there are solo players who might actually prefer not to be connected to any blocks. There’s a phenomenon in Glitch known as the Housing Authority. While most housing authorities are simply groups that members of the same neighborhood can join giving them a neighborhood forum and chat room, some of them have been created in order to encourage group interaction in neighborhoods, which has occasionally led to alleged harassment of their more solo-minded neighbors.
For these players, I imagine they’d like their homes to be refuges. And I think they should have the option of not having a block at all. If homes and group streets are somehow tied to physical locations in Ur, I think these players should be able to build homes that they can access directly from the street quarter sign or whatever replaces it.
In that case, some of them might like a street sign or teleporter that gives them easy access to their friends’ homes and the private blocks they are allowed to visit. In this scenario, a street sign or other item right in front of a glitch’s home is an excellent idea, just as long as I can have a physical neighborhood with my friends too.
* Coincidentally, the rumor of a release date that I mentioned in my last post for The Big Update was actually the old rumor about the group hall update. So sue me. The release date for The Big Update is actually rumored for around the end of Quarter 1 2012.